I had the opportunity to spend more time on the water with Spellbinder this weekend, this time with Neil and his daughter Molly. We could see that conditions were set to deteriorate by Sunday afternoon (as I type this, safely moored in Gosport, the true wind is building up over 25 knots to try and give us a late April gale) so we stayed in the Solent and visited some old haunts. It was also an opportunity to sea-trial some new systems as I prepare for longer voyages.
Molly was preparing for an imminent day skipper course so we worked her hard at navigation, ‘man overboard’ drills and other sailing challenges. She rose to the challenge and is already an accomplished helmswoman (if that is the right expression, which it may not be). She is an experienced dinghy sailor, which definitely helps!
Molly steering a straight course, supervised by Dad!
We headed out of Gosport with the ebb to Alum Bay, enjoying light winds and (once into the less busy western Solent) practising some Man Overboard (MOB) drills under motor and sail, picking up an unlucky fender with remarkable regularity (but the conditions were calm). We then got out the furling gennaker, a remarkably versatile sail which deploys and fulrs easily, and is a great way of sailing downwind in light winds.
We then anchored and had lunch in the shadow of the Needles, in Alum Bay, waiting for the tide to turn in Hurst narrows before tacking back up the Solent and into Southampton Water, ably navigated by Molly. The destination was Swanwick, where we berthed for the night and then had a lovely meal sitting at the prime table at the Jolly Sailor, which must be one of the most famous sailing-orientated pubs in the country (if you are old enough you may well remember Kate O’Mara in Howard’s Way, in which the pub featured prominently).
Sunday morning dawned and we made use of the building North easterly wind to sail back to Gosport before the stronger winds arrived. We left with fleets of racing yachts heading out of the Hamble. One thing I had yet to do on Spellbinder was to test out the removable forestay, a wire which runs from 2/3 up the mast down to the foredeck on which you can fly a cutter sail or storm gib. We got the storm gib out and hanked it on on the way back, using the running backstay deployed to windward (sorry – it’s getting a bit technical). But it was a good thing to do, and I am now happier about Spellbinder’s heavy winds configuration, which would be a triple-reefed main and storm gib on the stay, keeping the effort near the centre of the yacht.
Storm gib hanked onto the removable forestay, flying alongside the genoa. In the first photo you can see the Tall Ship ‘Lord Nelson’ is in the foreground.
We arrived back in Gosport in good time to visit the chandlers and buy one or two outstanding things. Thank you Neil and Molly – a great weekend!